Thursday, May 26, 2016

Expanding Papacy: 2

Image result for popes cartoon

I am sure Archbishop Ganswein used the term 'expanding papacy' to mean simply a changing or developing papacy: de facto the Papacy has changed since the First Vatican Council. De facto Pope Benedict's resignation was the key change. Ganswein describes Benedict as homo historicus, quite what he means I don't know but Benedict has the clarity of vision to see what is likely to happen in the future. I am sure he expected the St Gall mafia's candidate to be elected. I am sure he understood the inevitable confusion that would result. I am sure he would look beyond his papacy to the next and beyond. One of the principles that seems to be at the basis of Benedict's thought is that truth will triumph, because Christ is truth.

Benedict has introduced the idea of a Pope not dying in office, he himself promising obedience retired to a Vatican monastery and has rarely broken his silence. The important question is not what Benedict will do but what would Francis do if retired or was forced from office. Presumably he would not retire to life of prayer but probably become a curate in some poor South American parish, would he remain quiet? It is highly unlikely, and probably impossible for him.

With a chatterbox former-Pope giving daily interviews with Scalfari or some other journalist of choice, or just picking up the phone and sharing his ideas with anyone in the world he wants to - well this produces a very interesting slant on an 'expanded papacy'. Not only will the Cardinals in the future be electing a Pope but also someone who might in just a few years become an ex-Pope.

John Paul set down strict rules about forbidding lobbying amongst Cardinals, human nature would suggest this unreasonable. I am sure wherever two are three Cardinals are gathered, and they have kicked their shoes off they start talking about who is likely to be the next Pope, and who is likely to vote for who. For the good of the Church it would be irresponsible not to do so. In the same way I am sure any conversation between Cardinal is a bit like a job interview - with the under-riding idea of will this man be a suitable next Pope.

I think one of the things that could well develop is a fixed term papacy, an expectation that the Pope will retire after five or six years or when he has reached 80 or 85 he will become a former-Pope. Would it be possible that with two or three pope's emeritus around they develop a particular role, as advisers to the reigning Pope? I rather like the idea of retired Popes Home with popes  in vary states decrepitude eager to advise their successor, whilst they scheme and skype friends in the media, some maybe doing an occasional television interview or 'going viral' on the net.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Expanding Papacy

Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s recent remarks are always interesting, his recent interview is of particular interest. Gänswein, like his master Pope Benedict, is a subtle creature and should not be underestimated. I have always admired Ratzinger, especially as over the years his thought has developed.It is unlikely that Gänswein speaks with out Ratzinger knowing what he will say.

It is fascinating what Gänswein says about the two rival groups before the last Conclave, it is also fascinating what he leaves us to speculate about the election of Pope Francis in the light of these rival factions.

People have been pondering what the Archbishop meant by an 'expanded Papacy'. I think that we need to start with Pope John Paul's Et in Unum Sint  88ff - a document which seems to be as much the work of Cardinal-Prefect Ratzinger, as Pope Wojtyła. It recognises the role of the Pope today. it goes beyond the teaching of Vatican One's Pastor Aeternus, where the Pope is seen as the locus of the authentic Church, and the ultimate judge, or rather definer. of where authentic Christianity ends and heresy begins. It is role well suited to a non-travelling Pope, with a limited staff, whose concern was essentially doctrinal, with a Secretariate of State, whose role was essentially concerned with relationships Catholic princes, and few other Cardinal's with a tiny staff who held particular offices.

Mass communications above all have changed the role of the Papacy, today he is no longer the prisoner of the Vatican. We are more likely to be familiar with the image, actions and words of the Bishop of Rome than we are with our own Bishops. The Pope is no longer 'just for Catholics', he has another role, that of pre-eminence not only among Christians but among 'faith leaders' too. As a 'world leader' he has a moral authority which goes beyond that of any other leader.  He is also the head of one of the largest and most active NGO in the world.

I think Benedict has always wanted to reform the Papacy, it is not unconnected with his attempt to reform the Liturgy. His writings recognise the rootlessness both in scholarship and tradition of Paul VI's liturgical reforms, which rather than being a popular movement was something imposed from above through Papal authority. Vatican II, I am sure he welcomes but he has spoken and written about the Council of the Documents and the Council of Media. He has spoken of course of two hermeneutics, of rupture and continuity. Most especially in regard to the liturgy the Papacy itself has been the source of the hermeneutic of rupture, a rupture in the liturgy would for Benedict be a rupture in the entire fabric of the Church.

My personal feeling is the Archbishop is right that neither Vatileaks or conspiracies were responsible for Benedict's resignation, his devotion to Pope Celestine, his his symbolic leaving of his pallium on his shrine happened as early as April 2009, in retrospect it was an obvious sign of his intention to resign. I am sure his increased tiredness and difficulty in walking hastened it somewhat.

His resignation has changed the Papacy, more than any other event could have done. It has 'de-mystified' it. It has taken away the sense that the Pope is in some sense a sacred person, rather than a human being, brilliant or otherwise, fulfilling a sacred role. It strikes me as being highly unlikely that Pope Benedict was blind and deaf to "the so-called St. Gallen group” that included “Cardinals Danneels, Martini, Silvestrini or Murphy O’Connor”, what is perhaps interesting is that the Archbishop should mention them by name, and it is unlikely that he was unaware of who was their preferred candidate and where he would take the Papacy.

So what are we to make of the idea of an 'expanded' papacy? I cannot help see that it is significant that in the light of Amoris Laetitia and the confusion that it has created that Archbishop Gänswein should point out that the Pope Emeritus is still alive and able to comment, albeit by his choice through the Archbishop. The 'expanded papacy' is presumably a reference to the fact that as long as Benedict is alive Pope Francis has to take his legacy into account. In the past once a Pope was safely in his grave his successor had the freedom to make use of his predecessor's legacy as he wished, this is not an option for Francis. Benedict still has the capacity to cry out from his cloister, as we have seen recently over a misrepresentation of his words about Fatima.

Gänswein, by this speech has rather clearly shown himself to be one of the chief custodians and defenders of the Ratzingarian legacy. It is not by chance that he reminded the world that Ratzinger was elected after his sermon on the evils of Relativism. Perhaps when Pope Benedict is dead we will see what those who keep legacy which has perhaps grown rather and will grow rather than fade, will do and are capable of doing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Vatican II: A Pastoral Council, Hermeneutics of Council Teaching

I am very pleased to hear that Fr Serafino Lanzetta's book on Vatican II has just been published in English, it is the translation of his lectureship thesis presented at Lugano in Switzerland. it has a preface by Bishop Philip Egan.

The book aims at clarifying and indicating a possible hermeneutical principle, leading towards a more faithful reception of the Second Vatican Council, which respects the Council in its precise identity and so gives the conciliar teaching its true place in a revealed and defined structure. Hopefully this historical and theological research, involving numerous archive documents, might help looking at Vatican II as a way which will foster unity within the Church.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Diminution of the Holy Sprit

A thought for discussion:
A real reading of Vatican I gives us a rather beautiful understanding of the role the Pope, it is moderate, it is far from the idea of secular leaders of the 19th or 20th centuries or even our current age, it places the Pope as the servant of the Church, and yet its interpretation, the Spirit of VI produced some of the most inflated, aggrandised Popes ever. Popes who on a whim chose to abolish centuries old Tradition, Popes who saw themselves as innovators, rather than faithful servants who passed on intact what they themselves had received.
Whilst this going on there is a movement which at least has the appearance of being against, or to diminish the Holy Spirit, first of all Pius XII abolished the ancient Vigil of Pentecost and Paul VI abolished the Octave of Pentecost. Presumably this was done so as not to overshadow Pius XII's reform of Easter and Holy Week, but I can't help thinking it gave an imbalance to our understanding of the Holy Spirit and therefore our theology as whole.

Paul VI introduces oriental epliclesis into the Rite of Mass - Fr Hunwick has pointed out that in the ancient Eucharistic prayer of the West, the Roman Canon preserves within it a theology of God which is pre-Nicean, the point of being in the Eucharist, at least, almost binaterian . The Eucharist is confected by the Church through the priest offering bread and wine to the Father and he in turn giving us his Son. It is an exchange of gifts and there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharistic Prayer, apart from the present doxology at its end. In the East Eucharistic prayers, and the novelty Eucharistic Prayers introduced by Paul VI all, except the earliest, have a calling down of the Spirit.

What has happened is an abandonment in the post-VII of a very Western understanding of God - I wonder if the disorientation this caused has resulted in the rise of the Charismatic movement, a movement where the saving death of Christ is often replaced by a personal, ecstatic or emotional experience of the Spirit. Our Western understanding seems to be that the Holy Spirit is the unseen agent of Holiness, drawing us gradually into a deeper communion with the Father and the Son, within the Church. He is unseen but he is experienced. I think this was very much the understanding prior to Nicea and the later Christological Councils.

What I fear it has brought with it is a sense that the Holy rather than 'welling up' and being 'within' is something which comes down from above. In the day to day experience of Christians it is something from outside. There is a connection here between S Vincent of Lerins, understanding of Catholicism as quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est - everwhere, always and by all believed - to what the modern neo-Con might believe, which put crudely, is Catholicism is that which the Pope believes and it is imposed from above on those below. It is the most hideous Ultramontane distortion of the faith, and I suspect it relies on a distortion of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Yet it does seem that from VII onwards the role of the Holy Spirit is greatly diminished whilst the significance of the Papacy increases, these two things are surely not unconnected.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Come Holy Ghost

Octave of Pentecost – I have always regretted that Pope Paul VI abolished the Octave of Pentecost in the Ordinary Form of Mass, This year, in our Ordo, there are no feasts during the coming week, so I shall offer  votive Masses of the Holy Spirit throughout the coming week, remembering most especially the Vicar of Christ, and safety of the Church in her mission to teach, with clarity, the nations.
Join me in this petition.

Monday, May 09, 2016

A New Oratory in Bournemouth

It seems as though England is going to have yet another Oratory, this time in Bournemouth, yes another pastoral initiative in the diocese of Portsmouth
From the parish website - A new Oratory in-formation is being inaugurated at Sacred Heart Church in Bournemouth on the 8th of September of this year (2016).
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has invited Fr Dominic Jacob CO (co-founder of the Oxford Oratory) and Fr Peter Edwards and Fr David Hutton, generously released by the Archbishop of Southwark for this project, to begin an Oratorian Community of St Philip Neri as part of a major evangelisation drive for the diocese.
Fr Peter, Fr Dominic and Fr David will begin their ministry on the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday, at the church which is situated in the heart of Bournemouth, surrounded by students living in university accommodation, many international language schools, diverse ethnic communities, and the homelessness, beside long-standing residents, all within an active town center known its hospitality industry, business and commerce.
In accordance with the charism of their Patron, St Philip Neri, the Oratory in-formation will be devoted to offering sacramental support through daily Mass and confessions, Eucharistic Adoration and formation in the spiritual life, alongside pastoral care of students, the growing number of homeless, others in need, all who make up the local population, and the thousands who pass the doors of Sacred Heart each year.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth states: “The Diocese has areas of real deprivation and poverty. There are immigrants and foreign nationals from Eastern Europe and overseas, as well as university and college students living far away from home. This is a pastoral situation that is urgent. It impels action.”
Bishop Philip goes on to say, “We need to engage with those who have not yet met the Lord Jesus in Person nor taken to heart the salvation and eternal life He offers. More than ever we need today to be confident and clear in witnessing to the Person of Jesus Christ and the truths of the Catholic faith, in order to help people find the Way to authentic humanism and happiness. This is why I am delighted by this new project beginning at Sacred Heart parish.”
St Philip Neri, Apostle of Rome and Saint of Joy, continues to inspire secular priests today to form communities, without vows, living together in the bond of charity, with the Oratorian charism of prayer, preaching and celebration of the Sacraments, not least in the confessional.
St Philip’s primary apostolate of forming young people in the life of prayer and pastoral care, particularly for the sick and needy, also attracts many by excellence in liturgy and music, through catechesis, and in the New Evangelization through culture and the arts.
This latest Community of St Philip Neri is a Society of Apostolic Life under the direction of the Oratorian Confederation’s Procurator General in Rome for whom the Oxford Oratory and York Oratory-in-Formation have been the formative inspiration.
More information about the Oratory-in-Formation for Sacred Heart Church will be forthcoming in the parish newsletter and on the parish website.
Parishioners and friends of Sacred Heart church are asked to please keep Fr Peter, Fr Dominic and Fr David in their prayers as they prepare for this wonderful apostolate.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


Yesterday was the annual St Margaret Clitheroe Procession and Mass in York, it was a nasty wet day, not a day for the best vestments to be out. Attendance was down, so what is interesting is youth of those attending. There are obviously people of all ages but it is the number of younger people that is significant. Here is a link to picture file.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...